SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The Corona virus and its economic vulnerability, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers on Friday.
The Kim government has instructed foreign diplomats to refrain from any action that could provoke the United States, as lawmakers told reporters after attending a private conference of the National Intelligence Service that they were concerned about President-elect Joe Biden’s new approach to North Korea.
One of the lawmakers, Ha Tae-kyung, was quoted by NIS as saying that Kim was expressing “excessive anger” and taking “irrational action” on the epidemic and its economic impact.
Ha said he told NIS lawmakers last month that North Korea had executed a high-profile money changer in Pyongyang. The NIS quoted North Korea as saying that it had executed a key official in August for violating government regulations banning imports. Both individuals were not identified by name.
He told NIS lawmakers that North Korea had also banned fishing and salt production at sea to prevent seawater from becoming infected with the virus.
North Korea recently locked up Pyongyang and North Jagang province due to virus concerns. Earlier this month, it imposed locking operations in other areas where authorities brought in unauthorized items and foreign currency, the NIS quoted.
NIS says North Korea has not attempted to hack at least one South Korean pharmaceutical company trying to develop a corona virus vaccine.
The company has a mixed record in confirming the progress of North Korea, one of the most secretive countries in the world. The NIS said the accounts of the lawmakers could not be immediately confirmed.
Despite claiming that it is making every effort to prevent the spread of the virus, it is denied by outside experts that North Korea has not found a single case of corona virus in its soil. A major outbreak could have dire consequences because the health care system in the North is paralyzed and suffers from a chronic shortage of medical supplies.
The epidemic in January forced North Korea to seal the border with its largest trading partner and aid beneficiary, China. The closure, along with a series of natural disasters over the summer, dealt a major blow to the northern economy, punishing US-led sanctions.
North Korea’s trade with China in the first 10 months of this year totaled $ 530 million, up 25% from a year earlier. The price of sugar and flavoring has quadrupled, NIS quoted.
North Korean watchdog groups in Seoul say North Korea’s dollar-to-dollar exchange rate has recently dropped significantly as people have found some places to use foreign exchange after smuggling was severely cut off following the closure of the Chinese border.
According to the NIS conference, North Korea has instructed foreign diplomats not to provoke the United States, warning its ambassadors of the consequences if US-related comments or actions cause any problems in relations with Washington.
The North Korean government has been silent on Biden’s election victory against President Donald Trump, with whom Kim hosted three summits on the North’s nuclear arsenal in 2018-19. As diplomacy finally came to a standstill, the meetings helped Kim and Trump develop personal ties and prevent the crude insults and threats of destruction that they had previously exchanged.
Congressman Kim Pyongyang has been quoted as saying that North Korea is expressing tensions as friendly relations with Trump have become fruitless and need to start anew in dealing with the incoming Biden administration.
Experts are debating whether North Korea will soon resume major missile tests to attract Biden’s attention. During past government changes in the United States, North Korea has often carried out large-scale arms launches in an attempt to increase its capacity in negotiations with a new US administration.
The NIS expects North Korea to hold a military parade ahead of the ruling party convention in January in a show of force with the timing of Biden’s inauguration. North Korea is likely to use the Labor Party convention to formulate its basic policies against the United States, Kim Pyongyang has quoted the NIS as saying.
Kim Jong Un has said that the first such conference in four years will set new state objectives for the next five years. The Labor Party, which acknowledged the extraordinary failure of its policy in August, said that North Korea’s economy had not progressed due to severe internal and external sanctions and that its previous growth goals had been seriously delayed.
The story was corrected to show that North Korea closed its border with China in January, not in June.